A Fitness Crusade

Father Judge’s Jimmy Lynch has a strong passion for fitness and wellness. Now, in a newly-established initiative, he’s sharing that with the student body.

  • Hard work pays off: Father Judge students (from left) Brian Kennedy, Kevin Hawe, Joe Marinucci, Steven Pangburn, Bob Midiri, Jim Sauer and Justin Cherkis take advantage of the Mitchell Center’s weight room after school.

  • Man with a plan: First-year Father Judge athletic director Jimmy Lynch has started the Patrick S. McGonigal Center for Fitness and Wellness Initiative in which the school’s fitness facilities are open to the entire student body, not just athletes. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS

When Jimmy Lynch landed the job as Fath­er Judge’s ath­let­ic dir­ect­or last sum­mer, he said there would be much more to the po­s­i­tion than just over­see­ing the school’s sports teams. 

Take one walk through the Mitchell Cen­ter on cam­pus after school, and it’s clear the en­er­get­ic 27-year-old Lynch has put his money where his mouth is.

“When I got here, I re-worded the way I wanted the ath­let­ic de­part­ment to be seen, so I refer to my­self as the Dir­ect­or of Ath­let­ics and Well­ness,” Lynch ex­plained on a re­cent Fri­day af­ter­noon tour in­side the Mitchell Cen­ter. “For me, it’s not just ath­let­ics. Yes, I want our sports teams to suc­ceed, but I also want to of­fer op­por­tun­it­ies that would tail­or to the en­tire stu­dent body. There’s so many op­por­tun­it­ies to par­take in when you open up a cen­ter like this after school.”

If you walked through the cen­ter (school board mem­ber Bill Mitchell donated the money to open it back in 2007) after school be­fore Lynch got hired, odds are you’d find only Judge ath­letes util­iz­ing the build­ing’s weight room or gym­nas­i­um. Now, sev­en years later, it’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent scene, due to the Patrick S. McGo­nigal Cen­ter for Fit­ness and Well­ness, an ini­ti­at­ive Lynch has launched to open the gym to the school’s en­tire stu­dent body of about 1,000 kids.

On this day, the gym was buzz­ing. A par­ti­tion di­vided the room in two, half full of crew team mem­bers train­ing on row­ing ma­chines, the oth­er half with Judge stu­dents play­ing pickup bas­ket­ball. In the ad­ja­cent room, ath­letes and nonathletes alike were lift­ing weights and run­ning on tread­mills side-by-side. In ad­di­tion to open gym hours every day after school un­til 5 p.m., Lynch has opened up the cen­ter three morn­ings a week from 6 un­til 7:30. 

“I grew up in a big fam­ily play­ing sports, and they teach you dis­cip­line, work eth­ic, prob­lem solv­ing, how to re­late to one an­oth­er,” Lynch said. “And the fit­ness and well­ness as­pect teaches you how to take care of your body and eat the right things. It’s a lifelong ex­per­i­ence you can learn from.”

Lynch has a gradu­ate de­gree in sport man­age­ment from Neu­mann Uni­versity, but his in­terest in fit­ness and well­ness began while he was an un­der­grad at Saint Joseph’s, where he held a work study job in the cam­pus’ ath­let­ic and re­cre­ation de­part­ments. Now, he’s star­ted a col­lege in­tern­ship pro­gram at Judge, where part-time and full-time in­terns from schools like Neu­mann and Temple are in the Mitchell Cen­ter every day, of­fer­ing the prop­er in­struc­tion on fit­ness and well­ness tech­niques. The school has hos­ted sem­inars on con­cus­sion/trau­mat­ic brain in­jury aware­ness and col­lege re­cruit­ing, and Lynch said he has more planned, in­clud­ing one on drug and al­co­hol aware­ness pri­or to Seni­or Week.

Lynch stated that Judge’s top-notch ath­let­ic fa­cil­it­ies re­semble those on a col­lege cam­pus, which is ex­actly what he wants his ini­ti­at­ive to emu­late. His vis­ion goes bey­ond just one year, too, with plans in place to con­tin­ue evolving and re­vital­iz­ing the school’s in­tra­mur­al pro­gram. If a stu­dent has an idea to start a new team or phys­ic­al activ­ity, the door to Lynch’s of­fice (loc­ated con­veni­ently in­side the Mitchell Cen­ter) is al­ways open.

One of the ini­ti­at­ive’s com­pon­ents he is most ex­cited about is the “Iron Cru­sader Com­pet­i­tion,” the in­struc­tions of which are pos­ted on a wall in­side the Mitchell Cen­ter’s weight room. Lynch has chosen 10 events with a spe­cif­ic goal at­tached: for ex­ample, parts of the com­pet­i­tion in­clude a two-mile run in 12 minutes; a 300-meter sprint in 43 seconds; 10 minutes of con­tinu­ous jump­ing rope; bench press­ing 150 per­cent of the in­di­vidu­al’s body weight; and squat­ting 200 per­cent, to name a few. Of the 10, stu­dents have 30 days to com­plete eight; if they fail, they must wait 60 days be­fore try­ing again, and there will be no more than three at­tempts in one cal­en­dar year. There are no names on the wall yet, but he hopes that will change soon. The point, Lynch said, is to help young people set fit­ness goals for them­selves to achieve. 

“We have all these fa­cil­it­ies, and we want to cap­it­al­ize on the re­sources we have,” he said. “It’s great to see kids have an in­terest in tak­ing care of their bod­ies. The Iron Cru­sader Com­pet­i­tion gives them something to work to­ward. The pro­gram I star­ted here, I’m hop­ing it can be­come a mod­el for high schools across the city. If you put a fo­cus on fit­ness and well­ness as a whole, that’s go­ing to trans­late to more suc­cess aca­dem­ic­ally and ath­let­ic­ally. If you par­ti­cip­ate in daily rig­or­ous activ­ity, it stim­u­lates the brain. There are so many dif­fer­ent pieces to the puzzle, but the bot­tom line is it needs to be a fo­cus.”

Lynch ex­pressed hap­pi­ness over the three Judge teams (soc­cer, bowl­ing, wrest­ling) that have won Cath­ol­ic League titles in his first year on the job, but most of his sat­is­fac­tion is de­rived from so many non-ath­letes also par­tak­ing in the op­por­tun­it­ies he’s placed at their feet.

He is aware kids are most sus­cept­ible to at-risk be­ha­vi­or in the hours between school end­ing and din­ner­time, and hopes more will want to use some sort of fit­ness and well­ness en­deavor as an out­let for off­set­ting any tempta­tion. 

“I came in with a vis­ion, and this is just phase one,” Lynch said. “Once you get them in here, it’s easy to trans­ition in­to oth­er areas. Next year, I want to build up the in­tra­mur­als where we have in­door soc­cer, 3-on-3 bas­ket­ball, maybe a Judge triath­lon, things like that. And it’s more than just a vis­ion … I have a pas­sion for this. 

“A lot of the re­search I’ve done has been in the de­cline in urb­an ath­let­ics. The whole mind­set has got­ten away from cit­ies across Amer­ica. My goal is to bring every­one to­geth­er and provide more op­por­tun­it­ies for kids. Start­ing a pro­gram like this is step one, but it has to be du­plic­ated, ex­pan­ded. The Iron Cru­sader Com­pet­i­tion, I’d like to see oth­er schools do it to the point where it could be­come a city-wide club.”

Much has changed at Judge in Lynch’s first year on the job, a lot of it for the bet­ter. When he got the po­s­i­tion last sum­mer, he vowed to be in it “for the long haul.” His new ini­ti­at­ive seems to back that up.

“If you can make fit­ness and well­ness fun, they’re go­ing to want to do it for the rest of their lives,” he said. “The whole mis­sion of this cen­ter, this pro­gram, is to open it to every­one. We aren’t go­ing to force any­one to come in, but I want to make sure those op­por­tun­it­ies are avail­able to every­one. It’s to help pro­mote healthy al­tern­at­ives. 

“It’s nice to see the kids here tak­ing ad­vant­age of it and ap­pre­ci­at­ing it. I want kids every­where to have this. That’s something we can keep push­ing for.” ••

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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